Anger as 28,000 Luton households have council tax payment taken early

Council initially said “some residents” were affected
Council Tax Bill with coins. Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty ImagesCouncil Tax Bill with coins. Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images
Council Tax Bill with coins. Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Tens of thousands of people across Luton had a shock after their council tax payments were taken out of their accounts early – leaving some facing bank charges because of the blunder.

After taking to social media on Thursday (March 28) to reassure residents and explain ‘some’ people were affected by the blunder, Luton Borough Council has now admitted nearly 30,000 households had the payment taken out of their accounts early. The error was blamed on the Easter Bank Holidays.

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A council spokesperson said: “We are aware that around 28,000 households who were due to have their council tax direct debit instalment taken on April 1 had their payments taken four days early due to the Bank Holidays either side of the weekend. We have made contact individually with those people who have contacted us to offer reassurance and to apologise as well.

“We have reviewed our procedure and put measures in place to ensure that this doesn’t happen again. We recognise the weight of this error and sincerely apologise to those who are impacted.”

Hundreds shared their anger online. One said: “Yes, this happened to me, not impressed at all. Luckily we are ok, I hope some families can still enjoy their Easter break though.”

Another added: “Mine came out today which incurred overdraft charges, very cross.”

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One angry resident posted: “Imagine the hardship you've left people in. Will you be offering to pay their bank charges if yoir direct debit has taken them into an unarranged overdraft?”

Another described the mistake as “adding insult to injury” – referencing the hike in this year’s council tax bill.

This year Luton Borough Council added a 2.99 per cent increase to its slice of the tax bill – plus an extra two per cent precept for adult social care for a total of 4.99 per cent – the largest amount possible without holding a referendum. Extra amounts from Bedfordshire’s county fire service and police force are added to bills.

In February, Labour Northwell councillor Rob Roche told a full budget council meeting: “The general net fund expenditure has increased by about seven per cent or £10.5m. This is the measure of the extent to which unavoidable cost increases exceeds savings. This gap necessitates increasing the council tax by the maximum amount allowed of five per cent without a referendum, which will generate an extra £7.4m income.”

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He added: “This council has managed to protect key services and provide extra resources to ensure our staff are fairly remunerated, more for the care sector and in the community neighbourhood and town regeneration budgets.”

If you’ve been impacted by the mistake, have had a bank charge due to the early payment being taken, or want to discuss other issues, email email [email protected] or call 01582 510342.

The council spokesperson added: “We will aim to return your call within one working day. If your direct debit is due later in the month, this will go ahead on the planned date.”